Friday, January 10, 2003

News Feed 20100608

Financial Crisis
»Investment Banker: It’s Going to Get Nasty — Buy Land, Barbed Wire and Guns
»Italy: 2009 Awful Year for Real Estate Sales, 10% Decline
»“Oil Addiction” Lies
»Death by Obamacare
»Democrats Skip Town Halls to Avoid Voter Rage
»New Film, ‘The Lottery’: Unions Destroying American Education
»Obama Wastes Millions of Taxpayer Dollars on Personal Entertainment
»Obama Ignores Nuclear Threat at US-Mexican Border
»Photos: 10,000 Throng to Stop Ground Zero Mosque
»What the Sneaky Left Has Really Been Doing to America
Europe and the EU
»Calabrian Mafia Hit by 52 Arrests
»Denmark: Controversial Mohammed Cartoonist Leaves Jyllands-Posten
»Dutch Parliamentary Elections: The Return of the Bourgeoisie
»EU Company Admits Blame for Sale of Phone-Snooping Gadgets to Iran
»Finland: City Councilman’s “Racist” Blog Goes to Appeals
»Italian Bishops ‘Proud’ Of Priests
»Malta: Clashes Between Fishermen, Greenpeace for Tuna
»Sweden: Lars Vilks Joins ‘Kill Lars Vilks’ Facebook Group
»Sweden: Vilks Takes Fight to Facebook Foes
»Swedish Oil Company Accused of War Crimes
»UK: Commuters Leave Pregnant Women Standing… Out of Fear They’ll Confuse Bump for Belly
»UK: Fox Attack on My Girls Was Like Horror Film: Mother Relives Nightmare Moment She Found Her Twins Mauled in Their Cots
»UK: Polly Peck Fugitive Asil Nadir Asks to Come Back to Britain
North Africa
»Egypt: Divorce: No Sentences Against the Gospel, Shenouda III
»Italy Urges Libya to Let UNHCR Stay
»Tunisia: First Electronic Carpet for Prayer
Israel and the Palestinians
»Blitz: Reserve Generals to Examine Operation
»‘Freedom’ Flotilla to Leave for Gaza in September
»Gaza: MP Aid Convoy Blocked at Border
»Gaza: EU to Discuss Proposal on Lifting Blockade
»Gaza: Hamas: Yes to EU Land and Sea Inspections
»Raid Aftermath: Israel and Turkey Exchange Views
»Raid: Israel Seeks US Coordination on Inquiry
»West Bank: Police-Settlers Clash, Injuries, Arrests
»What Motivates Israeli Policy and Actions
Middle East
»Beauty the Latest Frontier of Halal
»Flash: Major New Development in Flotilla Story? Evidence Emerges of Government-Flotilla Link; Brave Turkish Nationalists Try to Calm Things Down
»Gaza: Erdogan in Beirut in July, To be Welcomed as an ‘Hero’
»Iraq: The Killing of a Christian Businessman in Kirkuk Rekindles Fear Among Christians
»Turkey: Hrant Dink’s Lawyer Found Dead in Apartment
»Did Russian Servicemen Steal Money From Pole Killed in Kaczynski Crash?
South Asia
»Bangladesh: Islamist Conspiracy to Kill Weekly Blitz
»India: Seven Men Jailed Over 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy That Killed 15,000 People
»Kucinich: ‘We May be Funding Our Own Killers in Afghanistan’
Far East
»How China Walks Over Europe
»Greece:18 Illegal Migrants in Italy-Bound Truck
»Greece: Illegal Immigrants on Lesbos Beach
»Italy: Immigrants’ Boat Launches SOS in Sicily Strait
»Italy: Ever-More Multi-Ethnic Italy, 7% Foreign Origin
»Glaciers’ Wane Not All Down to Humans
»Kyoto — Cap and Trade: Destructive Policies Like WW I Reparations

Financial Crisis

Investment Banker: It’s Going to Get Nasty — Buy Land, Barbed Wire and Guns

A top investment banker has warned that the economic fallout of the sovereign debt crisis could get so nasty over the next five years that people would be wise to abandon the markets and instead buy land, barbed wire and guns.

With gold smashing through its all time record high this morning on the back of fears over a double dip recession, analysts are turning increasingly bearish on the markets. Anthony Fry, senior managing director at Evercore Partners, told CNBC that the bond markets could turn nasty over the next few months and said that the current problems created by the European debt crisis could be with us for at least five years.

“Look at the current situation. You have Greece, now you have Hungary and huge issues surrounding Spain and Portugal,” he said, warning of a “nightmare scenario” of hyper-stagflation, where inflation rises dramatically but asset prices deflate.

“I don’t want to scare anyone but I am considering investing in barbed wire and guns, things are not looking good and rates are heading higher,” said Fry.

RBS Chief Strategist Bob Janjuah echoed Fry’s sentiments, predicting that governments would inject at least $15 trillion dollars more qualitative easing into the system and that investors should get into gold to offset the depreciating value of fiat currencies.

“Over the next 6 months we will see private sector deflation pushing 10-year yields down to 2 percent,” he said. “This will see the policymakers mistakenly attempt to kick-start the economy and market with a global quantitative easing program worth between $10 and $15 trillion dollars.”

Janjuah pointed out that, while gold has dramatically risen in value over the last ten years, the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones have both remained flat over the course of a decade.

[Return to headlines]

Italy: 2009 Awful Year for Real Estate Sales, 10% Decline

(ANSAmed) — ROME, JUNE 8 — The year 2009 was an awful period for real estate sales figures in Italy, which declined by 10% with a slight increase only in the fourth and final quarter. This was indicated in a report on real estate sales and mortgages from national statistics office ISTAT, which showed that “in the fourth quarter of 2009, on a national scale, there were 238,977 real estate sales transactions, a 3.6% year-on-year decline”. Overall, in 2009 there were 822,436 real estate sales transactions, 10% less than in 2008”. Home mortgages were affected by the market slowdown, with an year-on-year decline of 2.7%, despite a significant increase in the fourth quarter. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


“Oil Addiction” Lies

Americans are being force-fed lies about energy

Next to the huge international hoax about global warming allegedly caused by carbon dioxide, the biggest lie being told to Americans these days is that we are “addicted” to oil and that we must convert our economy and society away from its use.

The first time I recall hearing this was during George W. Bush’s 2006 State of the Union Speech and, frankly, I was astounded to hear it from the son of a former President who made his fortune in oil. The latest to repeat the lie is President Barack Obama, but he is allied with environmental organizations that are anti-energy no matter what form it takes.

Americans and everyone else around the world are not “addicted” to oil or other energy sources such as coal and natural gas. They are used to maintain and enhance modern life.

Data from 2006 makes it abundantly clear that 85.5% of the electricity we use comes from carbon-based fuels. Nuclear and hydroelectric energy add over 20% of the rest. All that magical “clean” energy, solar and wind, provides 3% or less of the electricity the nation requires.

As Robert Bryce, an editor of Energy Tribune and author of several books on energy, says, “The simple unavoidable truth is that we humans cannot (and) will not quit using oil. If oil did not exist, we’d have to invent it. No other substance can compare to oil in terms of energy density, flexibility, cost, and convenience.


So why has the Obama administration announced a shutdown of the auctioning of oil leases? Why have several administrations refused to allow access to the oil beneath the Alaskan National Wildlife Reserve or the potentially vast offshore Alaskan reserves?

If the ban on offshore drilling for oil and natural gas on 85% of the U.S. offshore regions is maintained, the nation will be forced to rely on foreign sources, many of whom are unfriendly, even hostile.

Think about this. Beneath a 1.5 million acre tract on the North Slope of Alaska there are an estimated three to nine billion barrels of recoverable oil. In 1987 the Department of Interior recommended development. There has been none because a succession of Congresses has refused to allow drilling on what would amount to a postage-size part of the vast Coastal Plain.

The U.S. must import the vast percentage of the oil we require, some 60%, and yet Americans are being denied the right to access, extract, refine and use the oil we have or look for more. Oil companies are routinely demonized despite the billions they must spend in exploration, extraction and refining.

Are we that stupid?


Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, is promising to bring the Cap-and-Trade bill, an energy tax bill now called a “climate” bill, to a vote in July. Studies suggest its passage would destroy more than two million jobs nationwide.

One analysis projected that the bill would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) by $9.4 trillion over the next 25 years. The U.S. doesn’t have 25 years. Our current national debt is $13 trillion and our GDP is $12.9 trillion. Do the math!

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Death by Obamacare

The truth is that under Obamacare, government will be involved in end-of-life decisions.

It occurs to me that someone else might be writing my column — more appropriately my obituary,- if Obamacare were in effect now instead of four years hence.

Last Wednesday night I had a heart attack. 911 responded promptly and summoned an ambulance to transport me to the hospital emergency room. I was quickly admitted, had a bunch of costly diagnostic tests and was assigned to a room. I was given the best, up-to-date care available, including chelation therapy which does a roto-rooter procedure on the blocked artery, clearing it out and buttressing it with a stent to prevent it from closing down. I was there for three days, carefully monitored, well-treated by the staff, and fed surprisingly good chow. Whatever was called for in my case was done, well and promptly and I shudder to think of what all this excellent care by skilled physicians and RNs providing the best care and medical procedures would cost me if it weren’t for my insurance coverage part of which included government funded Medicare. And there’s the rub. The Obama acolytes vehemently deny that the health care reform bill Congress shoved down our throats included what Sarah Palin called “death panels” but she was right. Under the new law, hordes of bureaucrats will be monitoring patients and dictating the extent of care that will be provided. And that, in effect means deciding who lives and who doesn’t. As Adam Walker Cleaveland put on his website Blatherings

“The truth is that under Obamacare, government will be involved in end-of-life decisions. Keep this in mind: the goal of government-run health care aka ‘obamacare’ is to provide insurance to everyone while simultaneously holding down medical costs — which is utterly laughable coming from this bloated administration! A huge program like obamacare like this doesn’t’ just happen on its own. Decisions on how it will run will have to be made. So who will be making those decisions about us and our healthcare? Well, the ones paying the bills of course — obama’s handpicked bureaucratic panel of appointees. Keep in mind, this is already happening in Oregon where I live, called The Oregon Health Plan. And the results? Controversial and frankly horrible.”

He goes on to note the formula Obamacare will employ: “The necessity of a procedure x the longevity of the person x the cost = a decision made by the government appointees. It really is a ‘death panel’ of sorts, because if the goal is to cut costs, death is cheaper than life.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Democrats Skip Town Halls to Avoid Voter Rage

If the time-honored tradition of the political meeting is not quite dead, it seems to be teetering closer to extinction. Of the 255 Democrats who make up the majority in the House, only a handful held town-hall-style forums as legislators spent last week at home in their districts.

It was no scheduling accident.

With images of overheated, finger-waving crowds still seared into their minds from the discontent of last August, many Democrats heeded the advice of party leaders and tried to avoid unscripted question-and-answer sessions. The recommendations were clear: hold events in controlled settings — a bank or credit union, for example — or tour local businesses or participate in community service projects.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

New Film, ‘The Lottery’: Unions Destroying American Education

A new documentary film is debuting this week entitled, “The Lottery.”

The film highlights the ever failing public education system we have in America today and how our children’s future is being seriously harmed by greedy, uncaring teachers unions.

As the trailer says, these unions are protecting failure in our schools…


The big fight is, of course, over the fate of charter schools. Most charter schools have proven to be far more successful than the regular public schools but charter schools are under constant attack by the education establishment. They aren’t under attack because of problems or failures to teach, but over the very fact that they are more successful than regular public schools.

Most charter schools are free of union oppression and this contributes greatly to the success of charter schools and to the greater opportunities for our kids. And this is why unions are out to destroy them. Unions are on the outside looking in and they can’t stand it.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Wastes Millions of Taxpayer Dollars on Personal Entertainment

While much of the country is struggling to pay their bills, the President and First Lady are partying like rock royalty. The collection of talent that has made the pilgrimage to the White House to entertain Obama and friends is nothing less than amazing: Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennet, Paul Simon, Marc Anthony, Herbie Hancock, Martina McBride, Queen Latifah, The Foo Fighters, Faith Hill, and recently foot-in-mouth Paul McCartney to name a few.

This has the makings to be the greatest ongoing concert series ever to be seen on this Earth just to entertain one man … all paid for by the American taxpayer.

How much does this world-class entertainment cost? Assuming the artists themselves forgo appearance fees, I highly doubt Paul Simon would perform with just a karaoke machine as backup. Professional equipment needs to be brought in — sound engineers, stages, lights, etc… Even small scale performances by these artists can be very expensive.

Add booze, food, security, invitations, social secretaries, wait staff, and hangers on to the tab and the price for one of these events could easily top $75K. With over 27 concerts hosted thus far, the total cost to taxpayers is in the millions of dollars.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Obama Ignores Nuclear Threat at US-Mexican Border

President Barack Obama — who campaigned on a promise to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons — welcomed the leaders of at least 40 nations to Washington for his much touted Nuclear Security Summit last month, but he failed to address nuclear problems in his own “backyard,” claim his critics.

The Obama White House claimed before the summit that it “will be the largest gathering of world leaders hosted by a U.S. president since the 1945 San Francisco conference that led to the founding of the United Nations.”

Many observers believe that this gathering was nothing more than a political “dog and pony show” geared to putting the brakes on Obama’s falling approval rating especially on national security issues. They point to the President’s continued refusal to address the vulnerability to radiological, chemical and biological weapons that exists at U.S. borders.

“President Obama has not so much as mentioned a recent GAO report that showed the ease with which weapons of mass destruction — including nuclear weapons — could be surreptitiously brought across U.S. borders,” said former intelligence officer and police detective Mike Snopes.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Photos: 10,000 Throng to Stop Ground Zero Mosque

Group vows to sue federal government: ‘3,000 good Americans didn’t die in vain’

As many as 10,000 protesters from across the country — including family members who lost loved ones on Sept. 11, 2001 — took to the streets in New York City Sunday to fight construction of a 13-story Islamic mosque to be built just steps from Ground Zero where Muslim terrorists murdered 2,751 people in the name of Allah.

Now the organizers plan to sue the federal government to designate the site as a war memorial.

The following are some photos of the protest posted by various blogs:


Spencer said despite the crowd’s size and the presence of media outlets from around the world, the U.S. mainstream media failed to show.

“ABC? NBC? CBS? CNN? Even FOX?” he wrote. “AWOL.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

What the Sneaky Left Has Really Been Doing to America

Astonishing story of how socialists have taken control of the greatest nation on earth

Sometime during the last half-century, America — the most magnificent and prosperous nation in the world — was stolen, according to June’s special issue of Whistleblower magazine.

“Just 50 years ago, in the 1950s, America was a great place,” writes author William Lind in the issue, titled “STEALTH ATTACK.” “It was safe. It was decent. Children got good educations in the public schools. Even blue-collar fathers brought home middle-class incomes, so moms could stay home with the kids. Television shows reflected sound, traditional values.

“Where did it all go? How did that America become the sleazy, decadent place we live in today — so different that those who grew up prior to the ‘60s feel like it’s a foreign country? Did it just ‘happen’?

“It didn’t just ‘happen,’“ Lind explains. “In fact, a deliberate agenda was followed to steal our culture and leave a new and very different one in its place. The story of how and why is one of the most important parts of our nation’s history — and it is a story almost no one knows. The people behind it wanted it that way.”

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Calabrian Mafia Hit by 52 Arrests

Clans ‘preyed on motorway construction work’

(ANSA) — Reggio Calabria, June 8 — Italian police on Tuesday arrested 52 affiliates of the Calabrian ‘Ndrangheta mafia accused of preying on one of southern Italy’s largest infrastructure projects, the expansion of the A3 motorway from Salerno to Reggio Calabria.

Interior Minister Roberto Maroni hailed the operation, the second in two days against two of Italy’s major crime groups. “This is the way to do it, to fight organised crime every day,” said Maroni.

On Monday police arrested ten members of the notorious Casalesi clan of the Neapolitan Camorra mafia linked to jailed clan chief Francesco ‘Sandokan’ Schiavone. Speaking about Tuesday’s operation, police said profits generated from milking the cash-cow motorway project sparked a turf war in the 1980s and 1990s which led to “dozens” of murders.

Tuesday’s operation allowed police to shed light on many of these unsolved crimes.

The ‘Ndrangheta clans took a 3% slice off construction contracts and supplied illegal concrete for the project, which has been lagging behind schedule for years, police said.

The clan fighting became “most intense”, police said, when the construction work moved into southern Calabria between the container port of Gioia Tauro and the town of Scilla on the Strait of Messina across from Sicily.

‘Ndrangheta is now believed to be Italy’s richest and most powerful mafia, moving past Cosa Nostra in Sicily thanks to its domination of the Europan cocaine trade.

Police say it also has a large chunk of the illicit traffic that goes through Gioia Tauro, Europe’s largest container port.

Separately on Tuesday, three members of Italy’s tax police were arrested for allegedly tipping off another ‘Ndrangheta clan to tax inspections due to be carried out on front companies.

The three officers were not identified.

Also arrested was an accountant who allegedly passed on the information to the mafiosi, while another 61 people including several doctors and a Carabiniere were placed under investigation in connection with bogus road accidents. photo: Salerno-Reggio Calabria motorway

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Denmark: Controversial Mohammed Cartoonist Leaves Jyllands-Posten

Kurt Westergaard, renowned for drawing the Prophet Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, decides to retire

At the age of 75, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard, who became a figure of hate across the Muslim world because he satirised the Prophet Mohammed, has decided to retire from his position at Jyllands-Posten.

Westergaard, whose drawing of the Prophet was published in Jyllands-Posten with a number of other satirical cartoons relating to Islam in 2005, has received hundreds of death threats for his drawing.

There were several attempts on his life the latest of which took place on New Year’s Day when a man broke into his house and attacked him with an axe. Westergaard survived the murder attempt because he was able to hide in his bathroom which had been specially constructed to withstand such attacks.

‘I think it is a good thing that I will not be going back to the newspaper. My absence can perhaps reduce the level of threat against Jyllands-Posten,’ he told reporters. ‘I don’t know much about that of course. [Domestic intelligence agency] PET can evaluate this but I feel that I can now retire with a good conscience after doing my bit for the newspaper. For me it is the right time to stop.’

Jyllands-Posten editor-in-chief Jørn Mikkelsen is impressed by the way Westergaard has managed the pressure he has been put under since the cartoons were published.

‘Kurt has decided to stop in order to dedicate himself to other artistic endeavours,’ he said. ‘We thank him enormously for the many ingenuous and beautiful drawings he has created over the years. And there is also good reason to thank him for the personal courage and steadfastness he has shown during the last five years. Not many people would have been able to manage the sort of pressure Kurt has experienced.’

Mikkelsen mentioned how tough the cartoon crisis had been for both the newspaper and Kurt Westergaard but said that the decision to publish the cartoons had been both justified and necessary in order to preserve freedom of expression.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Dutch Parliamentary Elections: The Return of the Bourgeoisie

An essay by Ian Buruma

Job Cohen, left, is more popular in the Netherlands than the right-wing populist Geert Wilders, though Wilders’ party is set for a bounce on June 9.

As the Netherlands prepares to vote, it’s worth remembering that the nation’s odd brand of right-wing populism grew out of 1960s radicalism. Dutch demagogues want to resist intolerant Muslims in the name of traditional Dutch liberty — while denouncing traditional Dutch tolerance as elitist propaganda. This paradox may not survive.

Two utterly contradictory images of the Netherlands circulate in the international press. One is the idea of a wild, unruly place where policemen smoke marijuana, gay men dance in the streets, and euthanasia can be arranged in an instant, a multiculti society that is so tolerant that even violent Islamic extremists are subsidized by the state. This caricature is especially popular in the United States.

But after the sudden emergence of populist demagogues, such as Pim Fortuyn and Geert Wilders, who rant and rave about the “Islamization” of Europe, a very different image has dominated the press: a country of reactionaries and racists, leading the rest of Europe in a march towards a new dawn of fascism.

Both images are wildly exaggerated, of course. And both seem to contradict Heinrich Heine’s famous notion that in placid, sleepy, bourgeois Holland everything happens fifty years later than everywhere else. They also contradict the image of a calm, phlegmatic people, who can never get excited about anything. In fact, on the whole, people are relatively calm in the Netherlands. But there is indeed something a little frenzied about the new populism, exemplified by Geert Wilders, just as there was something overexcited about the social changes in the 1960s: sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll as a reaction to centuries of dull Calvinism. Long periods of calm, then, occasionally interrupted by bouts of hysteria: That might sum up much of Dutch social history.

The Radical Reaction to Faith

The populism of Fortuyn and Wilders actually reflects both images of Holland, reactionary on the one hand, and oddly modern on the other. Wilders hates being compared to such leaders of the far right as France’s Jean-Marie Le Pen. And Fortuyn was openly, flamboyantly homosexual, something no other European right-wing demagogue would dream of emulating, not even the late Jörg Haider, whatever his habits might have been in private.

The far right in France, Austria, Belgium, Italy or Germany is associated with a tradition of fascism or Nazism. There is a direct line between the Action Francaise and Le Pen, or Mussolini and various far right parties in Italy. Holland had a National Socialist movement in the 1930s, to be sure, but the anti-Islamic demagogues of today have little in common with the prewar blackshirts. Fortuyn was once a socialist, who took up an anti-Muslim agenda because he saw Islam as a threat to gay rights and other cherished fruits of the social revolution in the 1960s. As he once famously put it: “I don’t see why we should fight for gay rights and female emancipation all over again.”

He is not the only person to talk like this. Quite a few former leftists have joined the hysterical chorus about an impending “Eurabia.” In Holland, many leftists who came of age in the 1960s grew up in conservative, often religious families. Their rebellion was often as zealous as the institutions they rebelled against. The idea that religion is once again a serious factor in Dutch society, this time in the shape of Islam, fills them with rage.

In other respects, Fortuyn was closer to more traditional populist demagogues. He attacked the “elites,” encouraged a cult of the strong leader (himself), and promised a way back to a more disciplined, mono-ethnic, mono-cultural society — as if such a society ever really existed.

Defending the ‘Gay Capital of the World’

Geert Wilders is not a flamboyant homosexual, but he is just as eccentric as Fortuyn. Perhaps as a way to disguise the dark hair inherited from his partly Indonesian ancestors, his hair is permanently dyed peroxide-blond. He, too, professes to be a champion of liberalism, and of free speech, for himself, at any rate. The Koran, which he compares to Mein Kampf, should be banned in his view, or at least heavily censored. He also advocates deportation of Muslim immigrants, and a special tax on headscarfs. Without such radical measures, he believes, “Judeo-Christian civilization” is doomed.

One thing that distinguishes Wilders from some of his populist colleagues in other parts of Europe, is a somewhat sinister form of philosemitism, which is driven by his loathing of Islam. A frequent visitor to Israel, Wilders approves of the Israeli hard line on the Arab population. He also finds support among right-wing Jewish organizations in the US, where he finds sympathetic audiences, often in synagogues, for his diatribes against Islam. One wonders what his audience at an “anti-Jihad conference” in Jerusalem made of his remark that Muslims were threatening Amsterdam’s status as the “gay capital of the world.” But this observation says something about the peculiar nature of modern Dutch populism.

Wilders, and before him Pim Fortuyn, is exploiting anxieties that go beyond the fear of Islam. A combination of economic globalization, murky EU politics, financial crises and uncontrolled immigration has eroded many people’s trust in traditional politics and undermined their sense of belonging. More and more voters, in Europe as well as the US, feel unrepresented by the traditional parties. Old neighborhoods have been changed by immigration, and the sense of national identity has been shaken.

Part 2: Queen Beatrix’s ‘Multi-Culti Nonsense’

The social democratic elites are blamed for these anxieties. They are blamed for having allowed so many immigrants to settle in Europe, after welcoming them as guest workers or asylum-seekers. They are also blamed for having discredited national pride by promoting a pan-European identity and multiculturalism. These accusations are not entirely unjust. It is true, in Germany for obvious reasons, but in Holland too, that the expression of national sentiments almost became a taboo after World War II. Such feelings were confined to the football stadiums, which functioned as places of last resort to let off patriotic steam, especially when Holland was playing Germany. The EU, alas, is neither democratic, nor can it replace the nation as a focus of popular sentiment.

This would not have mattered so much in itself. But coupled with economic anxiety, as well as fear of violent terrorist attacks, it has become a serious problem. In times of high anxiety, the easiest thing is to turn those anxieties into aggression against unpopular minorities. The fact that a violent revolutionary movement has emerged from the Islamic world, and that some people are prepared to commit atrocities in the name of their faith, has made this problem worse. But the real target of popular discontent, certainly in Holland, is not the Muslims themselves, but the liberal elite that allowed them to settle there. And so Dutch populism contains an odd paradox. Even as the demagogues talk about resisting intolerant Muslims in the name of traditional Dutch liberty, the tolerance promoted for decades by the liberal establishment is denounced as well, as typical elitist propaganda.

Not long ago, if you asked a Dutch person what the Dutch identity was, he would probably have included tolerance, openness to other cultures, and hospitality to foreigners. Whether this kind of self-congratulation was truly justified is questionable. But the attitude among Wilders’ supporters now is that tolerance has gone too far, that the multicultural society is a terrible failure, and that “foreigners” (even if they are citizens born in the Netherlands) must be forced to assimilate or be kicked out. When Queen Beatrix pleaded for tolerance in her Christmas speech a few years ago, Wilders expressed his disgust for what he called the Queen’s “multi-culti nonsense.”

Tea With Muslims, as a Jew

The question, then, in Holland as well as other democracies, is how to restore confidence in liberal politics. Without wishing to revive the more dogmatic forms of multiculturalism, which sees assimilation, or even integration into mainstream society, as a kind of cultural betrayal, people in Holland, as well as other parts of Europe, will have to get used to treating immigrants from non-Western countries as equal citizens. This also goes for European Muslims. Only then can the violent revolutionary element be effectively isolated.

In fact, the reality in Holland is not as bad as the harsh rhetoric of populists might suggest. Geert Wilders is popular, but not nearly as popular as the former social democratic mayor of Amsterdam, Job Cohen. Ever since he tried to calm things down in Amsterdam after the murder of Theo van Gogh by a young Muslim terrorist, he has been attacked by his critics as a cowardly appeaser of Islamic extremism. He personifies, in the eyes of his enemies, the liberal elitism and soft tolerance that people blame for everything, from street crime in immigrant neighbourhoods to violent Islamist extremism.

It is true that Cohen did his best to talk to Muslim citizens, to drink tea in mosques, and to take the problems of immigrants seriously. He did this, as he himself has often pointed out, because he knows what it is like to be excluded. Cohen is from a secular Jewish family. His parents survived the Nazis’ attempt to exterminate them.

The next general election will be held Wednesday. Since the Netherlands has a complicated system of proportional representation, it is by no means certain that Cohen’s Social Democrats (PvdA) will manage to form a majority government, despite his high personal standing. But his chances of becoming prime minister is much better than the chances of Wilders taking power with his one-man Party for Freedom (PVV). Even if Cohen succeeds, the problems of terrorism, street crime, or economic anxiety, will not disappear. But Holland will have a better chance to restore a degree of sanity, and be a country that is neither wild, nor bigoted, but the calm bourgeois place it should be.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

EU Company Admits Blame for Sale of Phone-Snooping Gadgets to Iran

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS — Nokia-Siemens Networks on Wednesday (2 June) admitted its share of the blame for Iran’s brutal crack-down on anti-government demonstrators last year after selling mobile phone surveillance to the authoritarian regime.

“We absolutely do find ourselves in a tricky situation and need the help of people in this room to help us navigate in these challenging times,” Barry French, head of marketing and corporate affairs with Nokia-Siemens Networks, told MEPs during a hearing on human rights and new information technologies.

The Finnish-German telecoms joint venture was at the centre of an ethics controversy last year when it emerged that it had supplied surveillance technology to two Iranian mobile phone operators. The technology was used to track down dissidents amid the mass protests following the contested re-election of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in June 2009.

Apart from the crackdown on demonstrators, which saw 36 confirmed deaths, Iranian authorities blocked websites such as Twitter and Facebook, jammed and tracked cell phone calls and text messages. For the latter, they used the so-called monitoring centre acquired from the Finnish-German company in 2008.

Mr French maintained that the surveillance technology was part of the legal requirements imposed by governments all over the world, including in the EU and US for mobile phone operators to get a licence.

“We deplore the use of this technology against dissidents,” he said, adding that his company has learned its “lesson” and has meanwhile pulled out of the “monitoring centre business.”

Nokia-Siemens Networks is however still selling “passive” interception capabilities, which need “instructions” — usually accompanied by a police warrant — as to what to intercept and where to send the data.

Mr French said that this technology helps police and prosecutors track down criminals and terrorists around the world and that there are international standards requiring such capabilities.

But he agreed to the need for establishing codes of conduct for European companies when dealing with repressive regimes.

Reporters without borders, an international organisation advocating freedom of speech, stressed the role of the EU in preventing human rights infringements facilitated by European companies.

“The EU needs to encourage European companies to sit down and carve out a voluntary code of conduct when dealing with repressive regimes,” the group’s Lucie Morillon said during the parliamentary hearing.

She pointed to the US, where Congress has recently passed the “Global freedom act,” preventing companies from collaborating with regimes engaging in censorship and human rights violations.

If the EU adopted something similar, it would also make it easier for European companies to resist pressure from hostile regimes to engage in such practices, she argued.

“EU diplomats should also press more to eliminate Internet censorship, they should visit jailed ‘netizens’ and bilateral agreements should not only look at human rights in general, but also at internet rights,” she added.

Rolf Timans, head of the human rights and democratisation unit in the European Commission, rejected the idea of legal restrictions for EU companies.

But he welcomed the idea of “corporate voluntary agreements” and common guidelines for European companies when dealing with these “tricky issues.”

           — Hat tip: KGS[Return to headlines]

Finland: City Councilman’s “Racist” Blog Goes to Appeals

On Tuesday the Helsinki Court of Appeals began handling the case against city councilman Jussi Halla-aho, who was convicted last autumn of violating the right of peaceful worship. His conviction was based on comments he published in his blog, which the prosecutor says were inflammatory and racist remarks about Islam and minority groups. A verdict is expected in August.

The prosecutor is also seeking a conviction for inciting violence against an ethnic group, a charge the lower court dismissed. Halla-aho himself is seeking a dismissal of both charges.

The lower court found that Halla-aho, an independent politician on the True Finns’ ticket, had offended the Islamic faith in his blog by making a link between Islam and paedophilia. He had also written that Somalis were either genetically or culturally predisposed to mugging people and living on government handouts.

Image Problems for True Finns

Halla-aho is not officially a member of the True Finns’ Party, but he runs on the party’s ticket. The party, which has tried hard to shake off an image of being racist itself, could be thrown into a bad light if Halla-aho’s conviction is upheld.

“The conviction has labelled both Jussi Halla-aho as an individual and probably the True Finns indirectly, but Halla-aho is the one in the dock and not the True Finns’ Party,” said party chair Timo Soini last September, when the lower court issued its verdict.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Italian Bishops ‘Proud’ Of Priests

‘Generic accusations cast suspicion on everyone’ says CEI

(ANSA) — Vatican City, June 8 — Italy’s bishops on Tuesday said they were “proud” of the country’s priests and claimed they were the victims of “generic accusations” following worldwide paedophilia scandals.

“You are harried by generic accusations which have produced bitterness and pain and cast suspicion on everyone,” said a message from the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI).

“We wish to express our cordial esteem and sympathy…above all, a word of gratitude,” said the CEI message, released to mark the final days of Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘Year of the Priest’.

“We are proud of you!”.

The CEI message came ten days after its chief, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, admitted there was a “possibility” that some of the 100 canon law abuse trials in Italy over the last decade may have involved cover-ups by bishops.

Bagnasco did not cite any of the cases and was unable to put a number on the victims.

However, he suggested that Italian Church officials may have sometimes been more inclined to protect the Church rather than reporting cases to the police.

“It was something wrong, which must be corrected and overcome,” he said, without going into further detail.

Three days later, on May 31, a victim of a paedophile priest in the town of Porto Santa Rufina near Rome accused the local bishop, Msgr Gino Reali, of covering for the priest, Father Ruggero Conti. Bagnasco was speaking at the end of CEI’s 61st annual assembly, where his No.2, Msgr Mariano Crociata, had earlier bowed to media pressure to say how many child abuse cases there had been in Italy.

Crociata said there had been “about 100” in the last decade but did not say how many priests had been prosecuted or defrocked.

The public record of abuse cases in Italy has been emerging slowly.

Last month a priest went on trial in Savona for alleged sexual violence against a 12-year-old girl.

Then a 73-year-old Milan priest, Father Domenico Pezzini, known for his support of gay rights, was arrested for allegedly abusing a 13-year-old boy.

Bagnasco’s remark on the possibility of cover-ups came a day after Pope Benedict XVI addressed the CEI assembly and made his most explicit plea yet for the Catholic Church to heal the wounds caused by the scandals.

A “humble and painful admission” of “the wounds caused by the weakness and sins of some of the Church’s members” must lead to “interior renewal”, Benedict said.


On May 29, a day after the CEI assembly closed, the Vatican official tasked with investigating abuse allegations warned that paedophile priests would burn in hell.

Speaking during a session of special prayers for abuse victims at St Peter’s Basilica, Msgr Charles Scicluna said paedophile priests would face worse punishments in hell than laymen who committed the same offence.

In a recent interview with the Italian Catholic daily Avvenire, Scicluna said his office had examined over 3,000 allegations since taking over abuse investigations in 2001.

The Vatican has been responding with increasing openness to the scandals that first emerged in the US in 2002 before spreading to Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany and Italy.

Critics have accused the pope of failing to take proper action when he was head of the doctrinal office that deals with paedophilia cases.

The Vatican has said Benedict, on the contrary, made it easier to punish offenders as well as preventing paedophiles from becoming priests.

The pontiff has met with victims of paedophile priests in the US, Australia and, most recently, Malta where he is said to have wept as he prayed with them.

The Vatican recently published the guidelines it has been using since 2003, stressing all cases are reported to the police as soon as possible.

It has also said that Benedict will be able to defrock paedophiles immediately.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Malta: Clashes Between Fishermen, Greenpeace for Tuna

(ANSAmed) — VALLETTA, JUNE 8 — More incidents have occurred off the coast of Malta between fishermen and Greenpeace activists taking part in the fight to free caged tuna. According to the captain of a French fishing boat, Jean-Marie Avallone, one of his fishermen has been injured and the boat has suffered enormous amounts of damage when they were rammed by the Greenpeace ship ‘Arctic Sunrise’. While Greenpeace has denied ramming the boat, another incident, also off the coast of Malta, was reported by the association of Maltese ship-owners on behalf of a Spanish fishing boat. According to the Maltese, there were serious incidents that took place about 65 miles south of the island. The Maltese and French navy have been mobilised in the area to monitor the situation. On Saturday, a British Greenpeace activist was evacuated by helicopter and urgently brought to Malta with a serious leg injury suffered during the incidents. According to testimony from other activists, their colleague was harpooned by French fishermen. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Lars Vilks Joins ‘Kill Lars Vilks’ Facebook Group

A Swedish cartoonist, who sparked controversy by drawing Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog, has joined a Facebook group — that wants him dead.

On Monday the controversial artist made a speech just steps away from a mosque in Stockholm, Swedish Radio said. It was part of a demonstration for freedom of speech organised by the Council for Ex-Muslims in Scandinavia.

During a meeting with the press he declared that he had joined several Facebook groups against him, like “Kill Lars Vilks” and “We Who Hate Lars Vilks.”

His first intention was to interfere with the groups and sabotage the forum. But, surprisingly, he noticed how attention-grabbing it was to chat and communicate with the group’s members.

“I thought they were going to be totally impossible to communicate with”, he told daily Dagens Nyheter. “Many people dislike me but are curious about who I am. And it’s actually quite a few who listen to what I say and start to discuss afterwards”.

“All of them are intolerable, but some of them are ready to discuss.”

           — Hat tip: Holger Danske[Return to headlines]

Sweden: Vilks Takes Fight to Facebook Foes

Swedish artist Lars Vilks has joined a Facebook group entitled Kill Lars Vilks in order to engage in discussion with his antagonists as part of his ongoing art project to explore the bounds of free speech.

“I have joined the group Kill Lars Vilks,” the artist confirmed.

Vilks’ notorious sketch of the Muslim prophet Muhammad as a dog was published in 2007, and since then he has lived in threat for his life. He was recently attacked at a lecture in Uppsala and his home was targeted in an arson attack.

Furthermore a woman sits interred in a US jail for allegedly plotting to kill the previously little known Swedish artist.

In response to recent events a group of ex-Muslims arranged a discussion meeting on Monday and invited Vilks to talk about the defence of freedom of expression and to stand up to extremist Islamist violence.

“It doesn’t matter if it is right or wrong to draw Muhammad, but he has a right to do so. Others have as much right to protest, but they have to learn that they can not threaten,” Karim Shamihammadi, who represents the secular group, said.

The meeting was arranged to take place at Medborgarhuset in central Stockholm just a few hundred metres from the main city mosque.

Vilks was keen to stress that the incident in Uppsala did not involve people representative of the group often generally referred to as “Muslims”.

“It is a question of a small clique who should not be given the opportunity to grow,” Vilks said.

Despite calling them “a howling mob” the artist has been seeking contact with his enemies and opponents via Facebook, active in groups such as Kill Lars Vilks (Döda Lars Vilks) and We Who Hate Lars Vilks (Vi som hatar Lars Vilks).

“I have joined all of those groups. Many are intransigent, but there are a couple who are ready to discuss,” he told the media after the meeting.

Vilks reported that he had been in contact with around a hundred people, even some who had threatened his life.

“There are a surprising number that can be engaged in discussion, they can in some way understand me.”

Through contact with these groups Vilks claims he has been invited to speak in immigrant areas of Sweden, such as Rosengård in Malmö and Rinkeby in Stockholm. Vilks confirms that he is prepared to do so, but it is up to the police to determine the security situation.

“It would be construed as a provocation if I just wandered in there and showed my face,” he said.

           — Hat tip: TB[Return to headlines]

Swedish Oil Company Accused of War Crimes

Swedish oil company Lundin Petroleum and the consortium it belonged to in Sudan were involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity, according to a new report. The company has denied the accusations.

The claims centre around the period between 1997 and 2003 when ten thousand people were killed and nearly 200,000 were forced to flee to southern Sudan.

Sudanese troops, in collaboration with militias, attacked and drove away the civilian population in areas where companies could extract oil, according to a report that some backed by about 50 NGOs in the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan.

One of the authors of the report, Egbert Wesserlink, stresses that Lundin Petroleum did not carry out the suspected abuse. According to him, they instead hired the Sudanese officers.

“Our conclusion is that Lundin contributed to there being war in the area and not to peace and development as they themselves claim,” he told Ekot.

In response, Lundin Chairman Ian H. Lundin said in a statement, “There is no new evidence in this report. The report repeats the conclusions, innuendo and false allegations based on partisan and misleading information that was rejected during that time in a document entitled ‘Lundin Oil in Sudan, May 2001.’“

Oil companies Petronas and OMV were Lundin’s partners in Sudan and the report asserts that companies had earlier received help by Sudanese army and loyalist militias to fight other militias who had tried to stop oil extraction.

“It is not credible when Lundin said that they were unaware of the atrocities and war in the region,” said Wesserlink, referring to Lundin Petroleum repudiating the accusations in an email.

Shane Quinn, program officer at the Swedish Foundation for Human Rights, told The Local that it is good that this report comes out now, even if it addresses events that ended seven years ago.

“There was an earlier report about them forcibly moving people,” Quinn told The Local. “They’ve always gotten off scot-free and there has been extremely little media coverage, maybe due to the Carl Bildt connection. It has always struck me as strange since Sweden has this big human rights portfolio.”

Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt was on the board of Lundin until 2006.

Shane Quinn added that it was worth investigating the coalition behind the report in terms of their agenda and whether they had a religious lobby.

The allegations date back to the period after 1997 and when Lundin Oil, a firm that pre-dated Lundin Petroleum and has since been sold to Canadian Talisman, owned rights to drill in the area.

Neither Lundin Oil nor Lundin Petroleum have extracted any oil from Sudan, while they have carried out a number of test drills, after the signing of a peace agreement in January 2005.

Sudan’s civil war first broke out in 1955 and continued until 2005 after an interval of almost nine years from 1972. The almost 50 year conflict, between the Muslim north and Christian south, is reported to have displace 4 million southerners and claimed a total of 1.1 million lives.

           — Hat tip: Freedom Fighter[Return to headlines]

UK: Commuters Leave Pregnant Women Standing… Out of Fear They’ll Confuse Bump for Belly

Belly or bump — can you tell the difference?

Apparently many commuters can’t, and are too afraid of causing offence to find out.

As a result, the majority of pregnant women are struggling to get a seat on public transport.

Two surveys have found that commuters are rarely giving up their perches to those struggling with the dizziness, swollen feet and nausea that pregnancy can bring.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Fox Attack on My Girls Was Like Horror Film: Mother Relives Nightmare Moment She Found Her Twins Mauled in Their Cots

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Graphic content]

The mother of twin girls mauled by a fox in their cots spoke of her ‘living nightmare’ over the attack yesterday.

Fashion designer Pauline Koupparis, 41, told of the appalling moment she discovered her nine-month-old daughters had been savaged in their £800,000 family home.

Last night little Isabella was fighting for life in intensive care, while her sister Lola’s face was described by their mother as ‘looking like something from a horror movie’.

The attack happened late on Saturday in Hackney, North-East London, as the girls’ parents sat downstairs.

The fox crept in through sliding French windows which were open because of the heat and up the stairs into the girls’ bedroom.


He said council officers insisted that foxes were not territorial animals so would not present a danger to residents. Hackney council insisted yesterday that there were no indications that the borough had more foxes than any other part of London or urban Britain.

But grandmother Fatma Kabay, 52, a housewife who lives on the same street as the Koupparis family, said: ‘Foxes are a big problem around here and terrorise our streets. Mrs Koupparis left home yesterday clutching a pack of nappies. She and her husband spent the weekend by their children’s bedsides

Bedside vigil: Mrs Koupparis left home yesterday clutching a pack of nappies. She and her husband spent the weekend by their children’s bedsides

‘There’s loads of them everywhere, especially at night — and they’re not scared of humans at all.


Foxes are not a protected species — which means it is not by definition an offence to kill one.

But legislation brought in by Labour and aimed at foxhunting enthusiasts makes it an offence to subject the animals to abuse or ill-treatment, which includes pursuing and finishing them off with dogs.

You can still shoot, snare and catch foxes in cage traps, but caution must be exercised to stay within the law. You can shoot foxes only with firearms, not crossbows for example, and neither live nor dead livestock can be used to bait traps, to avoid spreading diseases or further cruelty.

The poisoning and gassing of foxes is also illegal.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

UK: Polly Peck Fugitive Asil Nadir Asks to Come Back to Britain

Seventeen years after he fled to avoid a £34million fraud trial, tycoon Asil Nadir wants to return to Britain.

The former Conservative Party donor has told lawyers he hopes to clear his name of the theft allegations surrounding the collapse of his Polly Peck business empire.

Nadir, 69, jumped £3.5million bail and fled to his native Cyprus in 1993 as his trial approached, but claims he was facing false charges and a serious injustice.

He wants to come back to Britain to argue that there was an abuse of process in the case brought against him by the Serious Fraud Office, meaning he could never receive a fair trial.

But he will not risk returning he can win assurances-that he will not be jailed while he waits for his case to be heard.

He is understood to have asked his lawyers to discover if he would be granted bail while he attempts to clear his name.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Egypt: Divorce: No Sentences Against the Gospel, Shenouda III

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JUNE 8 — The Coptic Church “respects the law but does not accept sentences against the Gospel and against its freedom of religion, guaranteed by the Constitution”. Shenouda III, the patriarch of the Coptic Church which in Egypt represents approximately 10% of the population, during a much expected and overcrowded press conference took a stance on the final ruling of Egypt’s justice system, according to which the Coptic Church must authorise the re-marriage of its divorced believers. The sentence, issued at the end of May, rejected an appeal by Shenouda III in a matter that saw it juxtaposed to certain believers. The patriarch indicated that various sentences issued by Egypt’s high courts established in the past that when it comes to family law, non-Muslims are governed by the Canon law of their respective religions. According to Shenouda the matter of marriage is not an administrative one, but an exquisitely religious one, reason for which he announced that Coptic priests who should remarry divorced believers will be excommunicated. Answering on whether the Coptic Church will ask for the intervention of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to settle the delicate matter, the patriarch stated that he did not wish to embarrass to Head of State if he does not intend to act on the matter, but hoped that he may do so in order to “prevent” problems deriving from the ruling. Every year there are two to three hundred divorces in the Coptic Church. They are allowed only in the event of proven adultery or conversion to another religion. In Egypt, where there is a vast Muslim majority, civil marriage is only possible after religious marriage. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy Urges Libya to Let UNHCR Stay

Refugee body should be given diplomatic immunity, says Frattini

(ANSA) — Berlin, June 8 — Italy on Tuesday urged Libya to allow the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR to keep its office in Tripoli open.

“We have asked Libya to start negotiations for a deal to grant the UN organisation’s office diplomatic immunity and allow it to work,” Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters on a visit to Germany.

In Geneva, UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming said Tripoli told the agency to shut its office last week but gave no deadline or explanation. Voicing “deep regret”, she said “let’s hope a solution can be found”.

“This creates a void for thousands of refugees and asylum seekers already present (in Libya) and for those who will continue to arrive”.

Fleming pointed out that Libya did not have its own system for processing asylum requests and recalled that Tripoli was not a signatory to the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention.

In Tripoli, the UN’s new coordinator in Libya, Costanza Farina, declined to comment on the move and said she was waiting for the Libyan foreign ministry to issue an official explanation.

The Libyan-run International Centre for Migration Policy Development told reporters to direct questions to the foreign ministry.

Frattini, speaking on the sidelines of a meeting with German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, said Italy had itself “asked for an explanation”.

The closure of the office coincides with the first interception of a migrant boat, Thursday, carrying 22 would-be asylum seekers from Libya to Italy.

UNHCR spokesperson Fleming reiterated the agency’s “very critical position” of Italy’s ‘push-back’ policy agreed with the North African nation last year..

She added that “all the European countries who see Libya as a place where people who flee persecution can be received” should reconsider that stance “very carefully” if the UNHCR office remains shut.

Italy’s centre-right government has hailed the push-back policy as a success, claiming the number of migrants landing on its southern shores has dropped 96% since May 2009.

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Tunisia: First Electronic Carpet for Prayer

(ANSAmed) — TUNIS, JUNE 8 — The world’s first electronic carpet for prayer will soon be on sale in Tunisia. Thanks to an electronic device the carpet will allow the faithful to know the exact number of motions (sajda) and other related fulfilments (raka) of prayer rites. This first carpet, which has already been granted the positive opinion of the Mufti of the Republic, will be followed by more, with infrared devices: one for those who cannot kneel and another for Imams in mosques. The invention was made by Tunisia’s Hamadhi Labiedh, who registered it with the National Institute of Normalisation and Industrial Property in November of 2008. The carpet will also be sold through mass distribution stores at a price of 48 dinars (approximately 24.7 euro).(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Blitz: Reserve Generals to Examine Operation

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JUNE 8 — The Israeli Army has established a team of internal experts made up mainly of reserve generals, who will have the task of “examining” the bloody assault against the international aid flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip in order to “learn lessons” from the incident. The team, headed by reserve general Giora Eiland must “examine the execution of the operation and learn lessons” from the incident, explained a statement from the army issued last night. The statement specified that the team “must deliver its conclusions by July 4”. In addition to General Eiland, the team will include another two reserve generals, a reserve colonel of the navy and another official from the Defence Ministry, according to the statement. Furthermore, in order to respond to calls for an independent international investigation, Benyamin Netanyahu’s government is reportedly considering instituting an internal “examining committee”, made up of foreign jurists chosen by Israel, according to the local media. This committee should examine the circumstances of the assault, conducted on May 31 by an Israeli commando against the Turkish ship ‘Mavi Marmara’, which killed nine Turkish nationals. The group would also look at the legal aspects of continuing the blockade of the Gaza Strip in terms of international law.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

‘Freedom’ Flotilla to Leave for Gaza in September

Rome, 8 June (AKI) — Twenty ships with more than 5,000 activists on board will leave for Gaza in September in a bid to deliver aid and break the three-year-old Israeli blockade, according to Mohammad Hannoun, president of the Italian Association of Palestinians in Italy.

“Freedom Flotilla II will leave around September,” he said during a panel discussion at the Turkish Embassy in Rome. Six ships have already left, he added.

Nine activists were killed by Israeli soldiers last week when they stormed a ship in international waters that was flying the Turkish flag and directed toward Gaza with aid supplies.

On Saturday, Israelis seized another aid ship.

Israel in 2007 imposed a blockade on Gaza after militant Hamas took control. Hamas routinely shoots missiles into Israel and its settlements. Israel says it needs to seal the area to keep arms from entering.

Many critics of the blockade say Palestinians are unfairly suffering.

“For 35 months, the people of the Gaza Strip have lived under siege,” said a representative of the Turkish Embassy during the panel discussion.

Hannoun said the Palestinian Solidarity Festival, to be held on Sunday in the northern Italian city of Milan, will raise funds for the flotilla.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Gaza: MP Aid Convoy Blocked at Border

(ANSAmed) — CAIRO, JUNE 8 — Yesterday, Egyptian officials blocked a humanitarian aid convoy organised by a group of MPs, some of whom belong to the Islamic fundamentalist party the Muslim Brotherhood, which was headed for the Gaza Strip, reported a member of Parliament. “We are a group of nine MPs of the Muslim Brotherhood or independents. We travelled by car to bring cement and steel to the population in the Gaza Strip to help them rebuild, but security officials did not allow us to pass,” said MP Farid Ismail. “The drivers of the vehicles were stopped about 30 kilometres from the Rafah border crossing and were ordered to return to Cairo,” he added. The Rafah border crossing is the only crossing that is not under Israeli control and was reopened a week ago, on an order from President Hosni Mubarak, to allow for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza for the people in general and for the sick. Today, however, an Egyptian security official said that materials such as cement and iron, which according to Israel could be used for military purposes, will cross at the Kerem Shalom terminal, a crossing between Egypt, Israel and the Gaza Strip.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaza: EU to Discuss Proposal on Lifting Blockade

(ANSAmed) — MADRID, JUNE 8 — The Foreign Ministers of the 27 EU countries, on June 14 in Luxembourg will discuss a possible proposal to life the Israeli blockade on Gaza, said the Spanish foreign policy chief Miguel Angel Moratinos, whose country is the current president of the EU. Moratinos, speaking to public television station TVE, said that the EU ministers will discuss “a plan to lift the Israeli blockade” and “to guarantee the arrival of humanitarian aid, the circulation of assets, people and goods”. Spanish diplomatic sources specified that right now, there is no formal proposal on the table of the EU foreign ministers. The meeting in Luxembourg of the EU heads of diplomacy takes place two weeks before the end of the 6-month term of the Spanish presidency. Israeli Premier Benyamin Netanyahu reiterated yesterday that his country “will not allow for the creation of an Iranian port in Gaza and the free entrance of weapons into this territory”. The Gaza Strip has been controlled by the Islamic movement Hamas since 2006, after an internal clash with the Al Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Hamas: Yes to EU Land and Sea Inspections

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT — Hamas said today that it is in favour of a reintroduction of EU inspections at the land border crossing of Rafah, between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, and the presence of EU ships off the coast of the Gaza Strip to inspect ships headed towards Gaza, “so long as Israel does not interfere”. After a proposal launched by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to allow the EU to inspect traffic towards the Gaza Strip to assure the arrival of humanitarian aid, a Hamas political official in exile in Damascus said that “European involvement would be welcome, but according to set conditions”. Speaking to pan-Arab network Al Jazeera, Izzat Rishq said that “Hamas does not have any problem with accepting the reintroduction of European inspections at the Rafah border crossing, so long as there is no interference by Israel”. The EU BAM-Rafah mission (European Union Border Assistance Mission), which started at the end of 2005 and is formally still active, was suspended in June of 2007 for security reasons. “As for sea inspections, we are ready to evaluate the proposal, as soon as it is formalised, but also in this case, the condition is that the Israeli authorities do not interfere directly or indirectly,” said the Hamas official.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Raid Aftermath: Israel and Turkey Exchange Views

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JUNE 8 — Today Turkey’s government complained to Israel’s government about the anti-Turkish demonstrations by groups of citizens in front of the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv in the wake of the Israeli raid against the flotilla of activists sailing towards Gaza with humanitarian aid for the Palestinian people. Israel’s public radio made the report, according to which Turkey protested and stated that the demonstrations hindered the performance of activities of the diplomatic representation and were consequently “unbearable” and “unacceptable”. According to the radio station, Israel replied that Israel, in being a democratic State, acknowledges the right to demonstrate. Israel also stated that in truth what was hindered were the activities of Israeli diplomatic offices in Turkey, where people enraged for the deaths of their countrymen staged a protest. Their countrymen were killed when Israel’s Navy boarded the Turkish ship that was carrying pro-Palestinian activists. Furthermore, Israel reported the vivid anti-Israel environment in Turkey, which forced Israel to recall the families of its diplomats back home for security reasons. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Raid: Israel Seeks US Coordination on Inquiry

(ANSAmed) — JERUSALEM, JUNE 8 — Israel is continuing to postpone announcing the set-up of an inquiry into the bloody raid on a Turkish ship carrying pro-Palestinian activists, as it awaits a placet from Washington. Silence from the US seems to suggest that there has is no agreement yet in place between the two governments and, according to a source close to the issue, without one there would be no point in announcing the formation of the commission. For Israel, coordination with the United States is essential to holding off international pressure from the UN over the setting up of an international inquiry board, which is strongly backed by Turkey, but rejected by Jerusalem, which fears the lack of objectivity from the potential board. Local press reports say that Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s government has put forward an inquiry board made up of Israeli experts in international and maritime law and two foreign experts, one of them American. The board is expected to investigate the circumstances that led to the Israeli ambush of the flotilla carrying pro-Palestinian activists, and to ascertain the legality of the sea and land attack on the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, an inquiry commission has already been set up within the armed forces to examine the operational elements of the disastrous intervention on board the ship, in which nine Turkish activists lost their lives, and to draw the necessary lessons from the mistakes made during the incident. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

West Bank: Police-Settlers Clash, Injuries, Arrests

(ANSAmed) — TEL AVIV, JUNE 8 — Violent incidents have occurred this morning in the Israeli settlement of Beit El (near Ramallah, West Bank) during the demolition of a building erected without the required permits, on the occasion of a protest against the policy of “freezing” of new building projects decreed by Benyamin Netanyahu’s government. According to settlers’ radio Channel 7, units of the Israeli police forcibly removed a group of demonstrators, three of whom were arrested. The broadcaster added that dozens of young people were injured by truncheons or affected by tear gas.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

What Motivates Israeli Policy and Actions

by Barry Rubin

I use the opportunity of being interviewed to discuss current developments.

Vice-President Joe Biden has visited Cairo. Do you think his summit with President Husni Mubarak could be useful for solving the Gaza crisis? Is Egypt a strong voice inside Palestinian world?

No, in fact the Egyptians have given up in disgust as they have failed. They worked hard for years to bring Hamas and the Palestinian Authority together and Hamas rejected their efforts. Incidentally, they were just as frustrated trying to move Yasir Arafat toward peace in the 1990s.

Remember that Egypt has a blockade on the Gaza Strip just as much as Israel does. And their reason for doing so is self-interest. They know Hamas is a revolutionary Islamist group close to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. A Jihadi state in Gaza will subvert Egypt, becoming a base for propaganda and terrorism. Moreover, Egypt’s government knows that Iran is an increasing threat to itself, and an Islamist state in Gaza accepted by the world and free to function is also a base for Tehran on the Mediterranean.

Incidentally, Egyptian soldiers regularly shoot and kill refugees trying to cross the border and have opened fire on Palestinians from Gaza on a number of occasions but the world is indifferent to such things since the obsession is to condemn only Israel.

Do you consider the Gaza crisis a possible new reason for tensions between Israel and the United States? Their relationship is getting worst till the beginning of this year. Is there any solution?

So far the U.S. government position has not been good in the sense of actually supporting an ally whose previous handling of the Gaza issue has been approved by Washington. At the same time, it has not been as bad as many think on this crisis. The U.S. stance seems to be that the blockade should be eased, but in ways that are likely to be acceptable to Israel.

This means that Israel will transport into Gaza, after inspection, goods delivered by volunteer flotillas and will ease the rules on what can be sent into the Gaza Strip. Israel has already agreed on the first point and has constantly been revising those rules. A key question will be the U.S. attitude toward an investigation. It is hard for Israelis to believe that any UN investigation will be fair.

What about the Israeli public opinion? Are they conscious that there isn’t any possibility except for giving more concessions to the PA, regarding the settlements, and ending the embargo of Gaza?

The idea that Israel must give in does not seem either realistic or necessary to Israelis. I agree. Just because others panic and draw their own conclusions does not mean Israel has to make unilateral concessions that damage its security. In addition, people should understand that Israelis have a long experience of making such concessions only to have them be quickly forgotten and more demanded. Among these, of course, was Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, from which came not peace or quiet but a Hamas takeover; frequent terrorist, mortar, and rocket attacks; and now this current situation.

In my opinion, this current crisis will not change the facts on the ground very much. Western countries are not going to normalize relations with Hamas or demand an end to the embargo. Public opinion and media coverage is important but it is not the same as national policy decisions. Government leaders understand the reality enough to know that Hamas is a very destabilizing and deadly organization.

But let’s look at Israeli public opinion, based on a Pechter poll released today…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Beauty the Latest Frontier of Halal

(ANSAmed) — DUBAI, JUNE 7 — After food products, the boom of Islamic financial services, hotels where no alcohol or impure food is served, the latest goal reached by the ‘halal’ way of living seems to regard beauty. Forced to bend to a global consumption model based on Western demand, the Islamic world is successfully adapting its products and services to bring them in line with Islamic law, including cosmetic products. Of the 334 billion USD spent annually on these products worldwide, 13 form a growing niche: products that use ingredients and procedures to guarantee their “purity”, i.e. without swine products and with the animals that have been used to produce them slaughtered according to Islamic law. Malaysia and Indonesia are the countries where Muslim women are most aware of the risks hiding in the glycolic acids and gelatines of moisturisers, shampoos and facial masks. This awareness is now translated into market trends. Malaysia is preparing standards for the certification of products with corresponding labels. Women in the Middle East are rapidly learning about the ‘haraam’ ingredients, those that are not ‘halal’, contained in collagen, elastin and hyaluronic acid.(ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Flash: Major New Development in Flotilla Story? Evidence Emerges of Government-Flotilla Link; Brave Turkish Nationalists Try to Calm Things Down

by Barry Rubin

I’ve written about how the Gaza flotilla issue and stirring up a hysterical hatred of Israel is playing a role in internal Turkish politics as the government tries to use this demagoguery to continue eroding Turkish democracy and to win the next election. And a little later I’m going to talk about a major new development in the flotilla story.

In addition, while Turks are united in anger and sorrow about the deaths of nine of their citizens, they do not necessarily agree with the current government’s extremist response which threatens to lead to involving Turkey in violence and damaging its reputation abroad.

The leader of the main opposition, Ataturkist and social democratic party, Kemal Kilicdaroglu stated that Prime Minister Erdogan, “Almost declared war against Israel in his party’s meeting….Our party displays a more moderate and careful approach. Foreign policy can’t be carried out with heroism but with reason. The Turkish Foreign Ministry should publicly disclose correspondence made with Israel so that we may all learn whether Israel warned Turkey or not.”

Now you might ask yourself what is Kilicdaroglu hinting at here? And the answer is important and potentially explosive. There is a widespread story, which cannot yet be verified but seems to be more than a rumor, for why this tragedy might have happened. People ask: Why did the Israeli soldiers land on a ship where they should have expected to be received with a violent attack?

According to some people who are in a position to know, here’s the reason: Erdogan assured Israel that the ship’s passengers were peaceful and there would be no violence. That’s why Israel approached taking and diverting the ship in the manner it did. Is this true? I don’t know but it is definitely a story to watch. And here—the important development I referred to above—is the most detailed account yet of the connection between the Turkish government and the IHH, a group with terrorist connections which organized the flotilla and initiated the violence. Don’t fail to check out this source, which I’ve found to be very reliable over the years…

           — Hat tip: Barry Rubin[Return to headlines]

Gaza: Erdogan in Beirut in July, To be Welcomed as an ‘Hero’

(ANSAmed) — BEIRUT, JUNE 8 — The Lebanese are preparing to welcome Turkish Premier Tayyip Recep Erdogan as “a hero”, during his official visit to Beirut in July, so reported today the local press. Thanks to his tough stance in favour of the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip after the Israeli raid on the ‘Freedom Flotilla’, the popularity of the head of the Turkish government is sky-high throughout the Arab world. After a newborn was given the name ‘Recep Erdogan’ in Khan Yunis, in the south of the Strip, in recent days, the Lebanese daily paper as-Safir states that there are “preparations underway in Beirut to welcome the Turkish Premier as a hero.” In popular Lebanese perception, Turkey and the Turks have been associated until now with negative images — set out for the most part by the official historiography — relating to four centuries of Ottoman domination of the Levant. To the north of Beirut is most of the Armenian majority of Lebanon who every year, on the anniversary of the “extermination” of the Armenians, demonstrate in the streets with explicitly anti-Turkish slogans. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Iraq: The Killing of a Christian Businessman in Kirkuk Rekindles Fear Among Christians

Hani Salim Wadi owned a mobile phone store in downtown. He was 34, married with a daughter. Local eyewitnesses say that he was shot to death in a “targeted killing”. The local Christian community now fears a new wave of violence.

Kirkuk (AsiaNews) — A member of the Christian community in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, was the victim of a new, targeted killing. Last night, a 34-year-old businessman was shot to death. Local sources told AsiaNews, “Christians are once more the target” of attacks. In the city, there is an “atmosphere of insecurity”.

An eyewitness said, “At 9 last night Hani Sali Wadi was killed in front of his house”.

Born in 1976, he was married with a daughter, the source told AsiaNews. He was a businessman and owned a mobile phone store in downtown Kirkuk.

At present, it is unclear why he was killed, but Christians fear the community might be in for a new wave of violence. “We Christians are once more targets of attacks,” the source lamented.

Northern Iraq, especially in Mosul and Kirkuk, has been the scene of targeted attacks against the Christian community for quite some time. The area is in the middle of a power struggle between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.

Christians believe they are being persecuted amid an atmosphere of general indifference.

They are convinced that attackers “are not common criminals” and that behind the attacks “are precise political plans”, namely the creation of a Christian enclave on the Nineveh Plains.

In their view, both central and provincial governments “are doing nothing to stop it”. (DS)

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]

Turkey: Hrant Dink’s Lawyer Found Dead in Apartment

One of the co-plaintiff lawyers in the trial of the suspects of journalist Hrant Dink’s 2007 has been found in his Istanbul apartment in what appeared to be suicide. However, no official report on the cause of his death has yet been released.

Hakan Karadag’s body was taken from his house in Cihangir to the Forensic Council of Medicine for an autopsy. Hitman Ogün Samast had threatedened Karadag in the courtroom in one of the hearings.

According to initial wtinesses, a friend of Karadag broke into his house when he got worried after not hearing him from him a few days in a row. He found Karadag’s body hanging from othe ceiling. Police studied the scene and the body was taken to the Forensic Council morgue.

Meanwhile, his relatives rushed to the Forensic Council of Medicine building in the afternoon. The grieveng relatives said they could not believe he killed himself. His uncle Habip Karaadg told reporters, “I just saw him yesterday, he did not have any suicidal issues. He said he had a case that he had to attend and left saying ‘hope to see you in the afternoon.’“

Karadag was a co-plaintiff lawyer in the Dink assasination trial. Ogün Samast, the teenager who killed the Armenian journalist in broad daylight in January 2007, had said to Karadag in the courtroom, “You’d better visit the prison oen day,” with a threatening hand gesture. Karadag filed an official complaint with the judge. Samast objected saying he had no intention to threaten him, saying he only told Karadag not to insult him.

           — Hat tip: Reinhard[Return to headlines]


Did Russian Servicemen Steal Money From Pole Killed in Kaczynski Crash?

Four Russian servicemen have been detained on suspicion of stealing money from a top Polish official killed in April’s Polish government plane crash in western Russia, a high-ranking Russian law enforcement source said.

The Soviet-made Tu-154 crashed near the city of Smolensk on April 10. All 96 people on board died, including President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and senior Polish officials. They had been due to attend a memorial ceremony for the victims of the 1940 Katyn massacre in which Soviet secret police killed thousands of Polish military officers.

“Four Defense Ministry servicemen have been detained on suspicion of stealing money from the [bank] account of a Polish delegation member from the Tu-154 Polish presidential plane that crashed near Smolensk,” the source told RIA Novosti Monday.

The source added that the servicemen served in an Air Force unit but did not name their ranks and positions.

On Sunday, Polish government spokesman Pawel Gras accused three Russian police officers of illegally using the bank card of a top Polish official, Andrzej Przewoznik, who died in the Tu-154 crash, to buy goods in a store, but Russia denied the accusations.

Gras spoke about police officers, not servicemen. He told journalists Sunday that the three Russian special purpose police unit (OMON) officers who “had done this shameful deed” were “promptly detained thanks to cooperation between Poland’s domestic security agency and Russian special services.”

But Russia on Sunday called Gras’s statements “sacrilegious and cynical,” and the Russian Interior Ministry denied the accusations, saying no police officers from Smolensk had been detained over the incident.

Przewoznik had been the chief organizer of Katyn memorial events.

His widow told journalists earlier that some $2,000 disappeared from Andrzej’s bank card, with the first transaction taking place on the day of the air crash, April 10, and two other transactions occurring in the two following days, also in Smolensk.

           — Hat tip: Zenster[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Bangladesh: Islamist Conspiracy to Kill Weekly Blitz

Only anti-Jihadist newspaper in the Muslim world

When we started our journey, back in 2003, as one of the periodicals in Bangladesh, no one really had any problems with us. We even were receiving advertisements from the local advertisers. But, during mid 2003, when we started publishing positive articles and editorials on Israel and some other issues, which were almost considered to be taboo in Bangladesh, local advertisers swiftly turned away their faces from us.

Then I was arrested on November 29 2003, at Dhaka International Airport, on my way to Tel Aviv for attending a peace conference. The then Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP]-led Islamist government used the state machinery in placing me on remand for 10 days, thus mentally and physically torturing with the ‘hope’ of extracted a confessional statement. They considered me to be a Zionist Spy.

Later the government sent to an isolated cell at Dhaka Central Jail, where I was detained for 17 months in extreme heat and humidity.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

India: Seven Men Jailed Over 1984 Bhopal Gas Tragedy That Killed 15,000 People

[Comments from JD: WARNING: Graphic content.]

Seven men have been jailed over the 1984 Bhopal poison gas leak which killed at least 15,000 people.

The convictions are the first since the Indian disaster, when a pesticide plant run by Union Carbide leaked tons of gas.

About 4,000 died straight away and the rest succumbed over the following years.

Union Carbide, an American chemical company, said the leak was the result of sabotage by a disgruntled employee who was never identified.

It denied that it was caused by lax safety standards or faulty plant design.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation originally accused 12 defendants: eight senior Indian company officials; Warren Anderson, the head of Union Carbide at the time of the gas leak; the company itself and two subsidiary companies.

Seven of the eight Indian company officials have now been sentenced to two years in jail by a court in Bhopal. The eighth has since died.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]

Kucinich: ‘We May be Funding Our Own Killers in Afghanistan’

On June 7, the day Afghanistan became America’s longest-ever war, the New York Times reported on an ongoing investigation poised to prove that private security companies “are using American money to bribe the Taliban” to fuel combat and thus enhance demand for their services. The news follows a “series of events last month that suggested all-out collusion with the insurgents,” the Times said.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a leading opponent of the war, wondered, “Is the U.S. paying for attacks on U.S. troops?”

“Our troops are dying in Afghanistan, and now it turns out we may be funding their killers,” Kucinich said in a statement e-mailed to Raw Story, renewing his longstanding call for a pullout. “Our continued presence in Afghanistan is detrimental to our security.”

[Return to headlines]

Far East

How China Walks Over Europe

Is Europe the new Lilliput? Window of the World Park, Shenzhen, China.

Five years ago, China was the great hope of the European Union. Brussels believed the Middle Kingdom was moving along the same path of postmodern pacificism being taken by Europe. Today, Europeans recognise this was an illusion, argues a senior editor at India’s Hindustan Times.

Three or four years ago, European foreign policy circles did little but complain about the United States of Bush and the bullyboys in the Kremlin. China, however, was acclaimed as the power that understood the worth of European civilisation. “EU diplomats exude optimism when asked about China,” wrote Katinka Barysch of the Centre of European Reform. “Chinese leaders, unlike most Russians and Americans, like and respect the European Union.”

Brussels began to see values in Beijing’s worldview that were invisible to countries closer to China. China, it was said, sought a multipolar world based on international law. Its politik was all about soft power. EU President Jose Manuel Barroso, after a 2005 visit to China, spoke of an EU-China-US “triangulation” that would mould “a 21st century world order.” He envisioned a “cooperative Eurasia under Sino-European leadership and a China-centred US policy towards Asia.” Some saw Europe as an elder statesmen teaching the Chinese novice the ways of the world. “Europe is being asked to face its historical responsibility,” declared an analysis by a Spanish think-tank. Europeans today wonder what they were smoking. At this year’s Brussels Forum, the disillusionment was palpable. “Wishful thinking,” was how European analyst Charles Grant termed Europe’s China fixation.

Even as early as two years ago, European officials were more positive about China than about the US. Beijing seems to have assiduously fed this rose-tinted vision. “On the whole China acts in accordance with international law,” said the Paris-based Institute for Strategic Studies. “China’s alleged role in the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction is exaggerated,” said another European analysis. If anyone disputed US estimates of China’s real defence expenditure it was a European analyst.

China had no illusions of what Europe meant to it. Europeans were wealthy but weak. They should be wooed for economic reasons, but ignored for strategic ones. Beijing treated the relationship like a game of chess “with 27 opponents crowding the other side of the board and squabbling about which piece to move.”

The EU became China’s number one trading partner but Beijing put up so many barriers that the trade deficit ballooned to nearly 170 billion euros — in Beijing’s direction. Europe complained and was ignored. Europe is economically big, said Chinese academic Pan Wei, “but we no longer fear it because we know that the EU needs China more than China needs the EU.” Grant says “We have suffered more from yuan manipulation than the US.” But Europe had to wait for the US to do something about it.

Though scepticism had begun to creep into corporate and official circles, the brutal suppression of the Tibetan riots in 2008 popped the Sinophile bubble. A poll of the five largest European nations saw China replace the US as the “greatest threat to global stability” — the figure was 12 per cent in 2006 and jumped to 35 per cent post-riots. A review of relations last year by the European Council for Foreign Relations was brutal. “EU’s China strategy is based on an anachronistic belief that China, under the influence of European engagement, will liberalise its economy, improve the rule of law and democratise its politics…yet China’s foreign and domestic policy has evolved in a way that has paid little heed to European values, and today Beijing regularly contravenes or even undermines them.” China’s treatment of the EU is “akin to diplomatic contempt.”

It was a treatment encouraged by the fragmented manner of the EU’s response to China. Germany led the China hardline. At the other end of the spectrum was Romania, which Chinese officials described as their “all-season partner”. However, this mosaic allowed Beijing to play various EU members against each other — and it did so with skill.

The final nail in the coffin was the Copenhagen climate summit. China ruthlessly reduced Europe’s green dreams to carbon ash. John Hemmings of the Royal United Service Institute declared “the great love affair between Europe and China is over.” Grant said the EU “should abandon the fiction of a ‘strategic partnership’ which cannot be meaningful when the values of the two sides are so different.”

What Brussels or other European capitals cannot agree on is how the China policy should be recalibrated. Some argue for a re-engagement with countries like South Korea and Japan. Some push for a look at India and Brazil. Others want to hitch themselves to the US because a united West can make China back down. Some believe Europe should just sit and wait, that Chinese assertiveness is just a passing phase. But these are theories divorced, so far, from reality.

China dominates Europe’s trade and investment in a way that no combination of emerging economies can replace. Obama, the first US president in decades whose background is not instinctively Atlanticist, has so far displayed only impatience with Europe. Brussels is still in shock at his decision to skip the last EU-US summit on the grounds that the previous one had been so unproductive.

As is usual with Europe and its foreign policy, the ultimate reason that its China policy fell apart was that it could not speak in one voice and one mouth. And no arrangement or permutation it has with the rest of the world will be able to compensate for that single failing.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni[Return to headlines]


Greece:18 Illegal Migrants in Italy-Bound Truck

(ANSA) — ATHENS, JUNE 7 — 18 illegal immigrants hiding in a truck bound for Italy have been discovered and stopped by the Patras port authorities. The truck had already been boarded onto the ferry. The driver, a 53-year-old man, was arrested. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Greece: Illegal Immigrants on Lesbos Beach

(ANSAmed) — ATHENS, JUNE 7 — 18 illegal immigrants from Afghanistan and Pakistan have been stopped by the Greek coastguard in the area of Kratigos on the island of Lesbos in the eastern Aegean Sea. According to an initial investigation, the immigrants entered Greece illegally from the coast of nearby Turkey, onboard a rubber dinghy which sank as soon as it reached the coast. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Immigrants’ Boat Launches SOS in Sicily Strait

(ANSAmed) — PALERMO, JUNE 7 — A boat carrying several dozen immigrants onboard has launched an SOS signal with a satellite telephone whilst in the Strait of Sicily. The boat, which set off from Libya, is said to have just entered Maltese-controlled waters. The non-EU citizens, who are mostly Eritreans and Somalis, are said to include a baby of just a few months. The request for help had already been forwarded to the UN High Commission for Refugees, which received notification from several of the immigrants’ family members who are resident in Italy. The Maltese authorities are also said to have been notified. The boat is the same one that Libyan patrol boats attempted to intercept during the night, without success. According to sources in Tripoli, it left the port of Zuwara on the border with Tunisian yesterday evening. On Wednesday, the Libyan authorities closed the Tripoli office without providing any official explanation. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]

Italy: Ever-More Multi-Ethnic Italy, 7% Foreign Origin

(ANSAmed) — ROME — Italy is becoming more and more multi-ethnic, with a foreign-origin population at 7%, and the country’s population is only growing thanks to the arrival of immigrants. The number of births continues to fall, being “held up” solely by the children of “regularised” immigrants. Such is the situation described by the country’s statistical institute, ISTAT, in its 2009 population report. On December 31, there were 60,340,328 people living in the country — an increase of 295,260 (+0.5%) on the end of 2008 and this increase was due entirely to immigration from abroad. 7% FOREIGN ORIGIN — The number of foreign-born residents stood at 7% of the total, up from the 2008 figure of 6.5 ‘foreigners’ per 100 residents. The proportion of foreign-born residents is much higher in the Centre-North (9.8%), in the North-East (9.8%) and in the North-West (9.3%) and the Centre (9%), compared to the South, where foreign-born residents account for just 2.7% of the total. BIRTHS TO IMMIGRANTS ON RISE — There has been an increase in the number of births from 1.7% to 13.6%. In numbers, that means a rise from the nine thousand births to residents of foreign origin in 1995 to over 77 thousand in 2009. In the North, births to foreign-born parents represent around 20% of the total; in the Centre this figure is 15%, while in the South it is only 3.6%. FALL IN NUMBER OF REGULAR ARRIVALS — 2009 saw the registration of 442,940 foreign-born persons with Italy’s registry offices. This was 90 thousand few than the 2008 figure. This drop in the number of new registrations of immigrants is mainly attributable to the progressive unravelling of the effects of EU enlargement started in May 2007. Thanks to the decree on the free circulation of EU citizens — Romanians in particular — advantage has been taken of the opportunity to register as resident in Italy without any need for a residence permit. This effect has been gradually wearing off over the course of 2008, and increasingly during 2009, although numbers are still high. ITALIANS STILL MIGRATING FROM SOUTH TO NORTH — Last year internal transfers of residency involved around 1 million, 350,000 persons in all. The tradition of moving from the South to the North continues and from the North to the Centre. The rate of migration fluctuates between minus 3.9 per thousand in Basilicata to plus 2.6 per thousand in the autonomous province of Trento, which is closely followed by the 2.5 per thousand for Emilia-Romagna. INCLUDES FOREIGN-BORN RESIDENTS — These internal migratory flows are also due to movements by foreign-born residents, who follow the same direction as the Italians but appear to be even more prepared to move. Indeed, although foreign-born citizens account for just 7% of the population they account for over 16% of internal movements. THE BALANCE BETWEEN BIRTHS AND DEATHS — In 2009, 568,857 babies were born in Italy (7,802 fewer than in 2008) and 591,663 people died (6,537 more, but with a death-rate steady at 9.8 per thousand). There was therefore a negative balance between the number of births and deaths of 22,806. This represents a demographic trough for the past ten years, following that of 2003, a year in which mortality hit high figures due to a very hot summer. There was a positive births/deaths balance in the South, particularly in Campania and in Apulia, as in Lazio, in the two autonomous provinces of Trento and Bolzano, in Veneto, Lombardy and Valle d’Aosta. A COUNTRY OF SMALL TOWNS — Italy’s 12 large conurbations with populations over 250,000 account for 9 million of the country’s residents, just 15.1% of the total. In all, these areas saw an increase in population of 30,377. There was growth in the large cities of the Centre North: Milano (+9.1%), Florence (+8.8%) and Rome (+7.1%). But there was shrinkage for the large urban areas of the South, with Palermo shrinking in population by 5.1%. (ANSAmed).

           — Hat tip: Insubria[Return to headlines]


Glaciers’ Wane Not All Down to Humans

Natural climate swings have had a major role in eroding Alpine ice.

The Great Aletsch Glacier is ill. Over the course of the twentieth century, the largest Alpine glacier, in Valais, Switzerland, receded by more than two kilometres, and Switzerland’s 1,500 smaller glaciers are not faring any better.

Is it all down to man-made global warming? Not according to a recent study, which finds that about half of the glacier loss in the Swiss Alps is due to natural climate variability1 — a result likely to be true for glaciers around the world.

“This doesn’t question the actuality, and the seriousness, of man-made climate change in any way,” says Matthias Huss, a glaciologist at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, who led the study. “But what we do see is that current glacier retreat might be equally due to natural climate variations as it is to anthropogenic greenhouse warming.”

“This is the first detailed attribution of known climate forces on glacier behaviour,” says Georg Kaser, a glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, who was not involved in the study. “Given the importance of glaciers to local water supply, this is essential information.”

Researchers have long suspected that glaciers respond sensitively to natural climate swings such as those caused by the rhythmic rise and fall of North Atlantic sea surface temperatures by up to 1 °C roughly every 60 years. This Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO), driven by changes in ocean circulation, is thought to affect phenomena including Atlantic hurricanes and rainfall in Europe.

In most places, historical records of glacier retreat and local climate are too sparse for researchers to separate the effect of this natural cycle from that of man-made warming. In the relatively well-monitored Swiss Alps, however, Huss and his team managed to gather some 10,000 in situ observations that had been made over the past 100 years, and constructed three-dimensional computer models of 30 glaciers. By comparing a time series of daily melt, snow accumulation and ice and snow volume readings of the glaciers with a widely used index of the AMO, they teased out the impact of natural climate variability. Although the mass balance of individual glaciers varied, the long-term overall trend followed the pulse of the AMO.

Since 1910, the 30 glaciers have lost a total of 13 cubic kilometres of ice — about 50% of their former volume. Brief periods of mass gain during cool AMO phases in the 1910s and late 1970s were outweighed by rapid losses during warm phases in the 1940s and since 1980, when temperatures rose and more precipitation fell as rain than as snow. The scientists believe that these changes are due to the combined effects of the natural cycle and anthropogenic global warming, which now seems to have a greater role than early in the twentieth century.

Subtle mix

Natural climate variability is likely to have driven twentieth-century glacier shrinkage and thinning in other parts of the world, says Kaser. For example, his own research on the glaciers of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania suggests that their dramatic recession is mainly due to multidecadal fluctuations in air moisture2.

“The widespread idea that glacier retreat is the sole consequence of increased air temperature is overly simplistic,” he says. “Glaciologists have known for more than 50 years that glaciers are sensitive to a variety of climate variables, not all of which can be attributed to global warming.”

Questions about the effect of global warming on glaciers hit the headlines earlier this year, after an error was found in the latest assessment report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), based in Geneva, Switzerland, which wrongly stated that most Himalayan glaciers could disappear by the year 20353. The resulting furore put the IPCC’s credibility under scrutiny, and has triggered an independent review by the InterAcademy Council in Amsterdam, which represents 15 national academies of science.

But scientists don’t expect the latest findings on Swiss glaciers to rekindle the controversy. “Without studies like this, climate science would actually be less credible than it is,” says Martin Beniston, a regional climate modeller at the University of Geneva in Switzerland, who was not involved in the study. “Problems related to global warming are caused by a subtle mix of human activity and natural changes, and these new findings are a rare opportunity to illustrate this complexity in a comprehensible way. It is a question of scientific honesty to admit that not all the effects of climate change are solely the result of increased greenhouse gases.”

Beniston adds that recognizing the role of natural climate shifts doesn’t diminish the problem. “Even if greenhouse gases contribute just 50% to glacier retreat, this is anything but negligible.” Although Himalayan glaciers may not be as vulnerable as the IPCC report originally suggested, the European Alps, where most glaciers are already in decline, could lose up to 90% of their glaciers by the end of the century, says Kaser.

The authors of the latest study cautiously suggest that a phase shift in the AMO might give a reprieve to Great Aletsch and other Alpine glaciers in the next decades, but Beniston is doubtful. “We may see a temporary slowdown, but I fear in the long run the still fairly modest greenhouse effect will outweigh any Atlantic relief.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Kyoto — Cap and Trade: Destructive Policies Like WW I Reparations

Besides economic disasters, the Treaty of Versailles gave Hitler all the ammunition he needed to rebuild Germany. Under the guise of economic reconstruction and rebirth of national pride, he built the massive war machine that took the world into darkness and destruction. Hitler cannot be absolved his responsibility, but neither can those who, through narrow political views and a desire for retribution and control, provided the opportunity. Kyoto Accord; Climate Equivalent Of Treaty of Versailles

In a parallel process the Kyoto Accord, the climate equivalent of the Treaty of Versailles, began with the 1992 Rio Conference and was formalized in Japan in 1997. First they established guilt.


Scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) provided the ‘science’ for the politicians. The first IPCC Report in 1990 began the false connection between CO2 and global warming. Deception increased with each Report as the leaked emails of the Climatic Research Unit documented. Meanwhile two things are in play. First, the emissions trading scheme or “carbon market” designed to make nations, who enriched and advanced themselves using CO2 producing energies, pay those who have ‘suffered’. The Kyoto Protocol divides the nations into groups through an arbitrary level of CO2 production. Those above can continue above the level but only if they purchase carbon credits from those under the level. The fallacy of the idea is it is designed to reduce CO2 when it actually allows a continuance of use. In reality it’s a naked, unsustainable transfer of wealth. Second, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) allows ‘above’ nations to earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits worth one tonne of CO2 each by building an emission reducing project in the ‘under’ nation. This doesn’t reduce CO2 levels either because without the outside investment the project wouldn’t have occurred. It’s a crude form of foreign aid that forces successful businesses to subsidize businesses in the ‘under’ nations giving unfair advantage on world markets. It’s a bureaucratic delight because it’s an administrative nightmare.

           — Hat tip: JD[Return to headlines]